Blount Small Ship Adventures
Blount Small Ship Adventures was founded 50 years ago by Luther Blount, a New England entrepreneur who saw the market for small, shallow-draft cruise ships. He created ships just the right size to navigate into bays, rivers, and canals along North America’s coastline, the Intracoastal Waterway, the St. Lawrence River, and deep into the five Great Lakes. Blount's three daughters now run the cruise line and shipyard, which is still based in Warren, Rhode Island. Carrying only 88 passengers each, the line's Grande Caribe and Grande Mariner provide basic accommodations at a lower price point than the other U.S. flag competition.
What We Love
The Crew: The captains are Blount veterans who know the waters well, while the other enthusiastic crew members are mainly of college age — some of whom are taking a gap year to earn education money.
BYO Policy: Beer and wine are included with meals, and you're also allowed to bring aboard your own favorite spirits and wines for the evening cocktail hour. The line provides storage, ice, mixers, and setup.
Best Known For
Creative Itineraries: Blount initiated, and still operates, an innovative cruise embarking in New York City that sails up the scenic Hudson River to Albany, New York, then west into the Erie and Oswego canals to reach Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and Seaway leading to Montreal and Quebec.
Casual Social Life: The line draws mostly older American couples and singles who share much in common right from the get-go. The cozy lounge and dining room with large round tables make for a convivial atmosphere. Bonding conversation starts straight away.
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Who It's Best For
American Seniors: No doubt about it, the passenger list is one of the most homogeneous you'll find anywhere at sea. There may also be a few Canadians and a stray Brit in the mix.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Cabins Are Tiny: They're teensy compared to those on oceangoing cruise ships, and strictly for sleeping. Some bathrooms combine everything in one cramped space, while others separate out the shower compartment.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.